Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Neuropsychologia. 2010 Apr;48(5):1295-304. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2009.12.033. Epub 2009 Dec 28.

Neurocognitive correlates of alexithymia in asymptomatic individuals with HIV.

Author information

  • 1Department of Psychology, Boston University, 648 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02215-2013, USA.


Alexithymia, an impairment of affective and cognitive emotional processing, is often associated with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and may reflect effects of the virus on brain areas that are also important for multiple cognitive functions, such as the prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortices. We hypothesized that there would be a correlation between extent of alexithymia and cognitive performance associated with these brain areas, including attention, executive function, and visuospatial processing. Thirty-four asymptomatic HIV+ participants and 34 matched healthy HIV- volunteers were administered the Toronto Alexithymia Scale, a series of neuropsychological tests, and measures of apathy, depression, and quality of life (QoL). The HIV+ participants had significantly higher levels of alexithymia, depression and apathy than the HIV- group. The extent of alexithymia and two of its processing components (Difficulty Describing Feelings [DDF] and Externally Oriented Thinking), but not depression, correlated with performance on measures of executive and visuospatial abilities, consistent with dysfunction of the frontostriatal circuits and their cortical projections. Apathy was related to alexithymia and two processing components (Difficulty Identifying Feelings and DDF) but to only one cognitive measure. The higher rate of alexithymia, as well as cognitive dysfunction, in HIV may be a consequence of the infection on the frontostriatal system and its cortical connections. Our findings also demonstrated a dissociation of apathy and alexithymia in HIV, pointing to overlapping but distinct neural substrates within frontostriatal circuits. Alexithymia correlated strongly with QoL ratings, underscoring the importance of assessment and treatment of HIV-associated emotional and cognitive processing deficits.


anterior cingulate; apathy; cognition; emotion; frontostriatal; nadir CD4 cell count

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Elsevier Science Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Support Center